There are indications that Nigeria will soon experience a third wave of the COVID-19 outbreak as cases increase across the country, particularly in Lagos.
Lagos State Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu Sunday called for caution as he alerted residents of what he said appeared to be the start of a potential third wave of the pandemic.
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This comes as the Oyo State Government announced discovery of the malignant Delta variant of the virus in the state.
As of Sunday, Nigeria has recorded a total of 168, 540 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 2,122 ; while 164, 431 patients had been discharged.
The Presidential Steering Committee (PSC) and relevant authorities had warned that the country could witness the third wave which neighbouring countries in the region and the rest of the globe had started experiencing.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) had earlier warned that Africa was facing a fast-surging third wave of COVID-19 pandemic. The organisation had warned that at the current rate of infections, the ongoing surge was set to surpass the previous one by early July.
“The pandemic is resurging in 12 African countries. A combination of factors including weak observance of public health measures, increased social interaction and movement as well as the spread of variants are powering the new surge.
“In the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda that are experiencing COVID-19 resurgence, the Delta variant has been detected in most samples sequenced in the past month. Across Africa, the variant—first identified in India—has been reported in 14 countries,” it said .
According to Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, “The third wave is picking up speed, spreading faster, hitting harder. With rapidly rising case numbers and increasing reports of serious illness, the latest surge threatens to be Africa’s worst yet.”
She said Africa could still blunt the impact of these fast-rising infections, but the window of opportunity was closing. “Everyone everywhere can do their bit by taking precautions to prevent transmission,” she had said.
The Head, Technical Secretariat, and member of the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19, Dr Mukhtar Muhammad, was not available for comment as he did not pick his calls or respond to SMS and WhatsApp messages.
However, on Monday June 28, the federal government had said the nation was conscious of the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and was taking necessary measures including provision for oxygen facilities as preventive measure.
Director-General, Nigeria Centre for Disease Control, Chikwe Ihekweazu, had, last month, warned that the country cannot afford to let its guard down as a third wave was possible
Speaking at the national briefing of the PSC on COVID-19, the Minister of Health, Osagie Ehanire, had said, “Nigeria has so far escaped the worst of COVID-19 and the dire predictions made about us. We may even seem to be doing well, but I wish to emphasize that we must still be on strict preventive alert, because of the COVID-19 third wave that is sweeping across the globe. Cases have been rising in one African country after the other and health systems are getting stressed in countries like Uganda.”
While saying that the Ministry of Health had been preparing itself to ensure system resilience, he said that oxygen sufficiency was of high priority, as government observed in countries going through the third wave.
Earlier, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Chairman, PSC on COVID-19, Boss Mustapha, had said Nigeria cannot afford a third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic and thus will do everything to protect its territory.
While the country recorded a decline in cases between March and June, there have been spike in the daily cases recorded in the last two weeks particularly in Lagos state.
Data obtained from the NCDC showed that while the country recorded only two cases on June 27th , with no case in Lagos, on the 28th there were 65 cases, with Lagos recording 44 cases. 75 cases were recorded on 30th of June.
From July 1 to 3, the daily recorded cases were 71, 40 and 71 respectively.
However on July 6, the number of cases rose to 91 with Lagos recording 66 cases. The cases since then had grown from 110, 146, 175 and 94 cases daily.
On July 9, Lagos alone recorded 175 cases.
In the last one week, the total number of cases in the country rose from 167, 859 cases to 168, 540 cases.
Sanwo-Olu alerts residents
According to Sanwo-Olu, epidemiology update as of July 7, 2021 showed Lagos state recorded a total of 60,202 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Out of the number 55,135 have recovered in-community and 770 are currently being managed actively in community.
He disclosed that from the beginning of July, Lagos started to experience a steep increase in the number of daily confirmed cases, with the test positivity rate going from 1.1percent at the end of June 2021 to its current rate of 6.6percent as at July 8, 2021.
He said: “Starting around the end of March 2021, the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Lagos State began to wind down, and we began to enjoy some reprieve from the worst effects of the virus. This allowed us to further open-up the economy to allow the start of the journey towards full normalcy in our lives and the pursuit of livelihoods, after what has been a very difficult year.
“Regrettably, in spite of the hard work and dedicated efforts towards sustaining the return to normalcy, over the last three months, we are now finding ourselves at what appears to be the start of a potential 3rd wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, in Lagos State.
“The rapid increase within a week gives great cause for concern. Also, within the last two weeks, the occupancy rate at our two isolation centres increased from an average of 1percent to 6percent. This is the new and disturbing reality that now confronts us”.
The governor, however, encouraged Lagosians not to be demoralized, assuring that his government would not leave any stone unturned in a bid to effectively mitigate the third wave of the pandemic.
He said the government would continue to test aggressively and also focus on sequencing the samples to ensure that the different variants in circulation are detected and tracked.
He urged residents to desist from patronizing non-accredited COVID-19 treatment centers, advising proprietors to also ensure that all suspected and confirmed cases were referred appropriately.
He further assured that the Lagos State Health Facility Monitoring and Accreditation Agency was providing monitoring and surveillance and had been mandated to apply heavy fines and other punitive measures on all facilities found to be in violation of this.
Commenting on vaccine distribution and access, Governor Sanwo-Olu said one of the major tenets of the state’s mitigation strategy against the 3rd wave was the vaccination campaign.
He said it had been observed by various credible studies that those that had received their full vaccines had demonstrated significant resistance to the effects of the virus, with fewer associated complications and deaths.
While he stated that only 1percent of residents of Lagos had received two doses of the vaccine; he assured that the state government would explore all avenues possible to ramp up access to vaccination so as to reach its herd immunity target of at least 60% COVID-19 vaccination coverage of the population of the State.
On travel protocols for in-Bound Passengers, he disclosed that between May 8, 2021 and July 7, 2021, a total of 50,322 passengers of interest arrived in Lagos via the Murtala Mohammed Airport out of which the 50,322 passengers, 18 percent could not be reached by EKOTELEMED because of the provision of either wrong numbers or wrong Nigerian contact details to be reached on.
He noted that it is the responsibility of passengers to ensure they provide the right details to reach them for proper monitoring.
COVID-19 Delta variant now in Oyo – Official
The Oyo State Coronavirus Task Force says it has uncovered the Delta variant of the virus in the state. A statement by Taiwo Adisa, the Chief Press Secretary to Gov. Seyi Makinde, issued on behalf of the taskforce on Sunday in Ibadan, said the State’s Incident Manager and coordinator of the Emergency Operations Centre, Dr Olabode Ladipo, had confirmed the development.
He said the general public should take extra caution and consistently apply all precautionary measures earlier released by the task force.
The statement read: “This strain has been associated with high transmission, increase severity of infection and outcomes.
“As such, this is to warn that the virus is still very much within the society.”
How to tackle fresh wave – Experts
Dr Casmir Ifeanyi, a public health expert, said Nigeria would expectedly go into a third wave because both the government and the public had taken for granted the minimal impact of the pandemic so far in the country.
According to him, the lessons from the first wave had not been imbibed to ensure a systemic response to the pandemic.
He said with the virulent Delta variant of COVID-19, ravaging some countries and already detected in Nigeria, Lagos could continue to witness a surge in cases, being a hub for high volume of human traffic from other continents into the country.
On the way forward, the epidemiologist said restrictions for international travel and other measures to tackle the third wave should not be limited to Lagos alone, but extended to Abuja, Kano and other cities.
Casmir said addressing the public apathy against COVID-19 vaccination and non-pharmaceutical measures against the pandemic would also help in addressing the third wave.
He said it did not augur well for the country that isolation and treatment centres had already been shut and Nigerians to continue to flout protocols instituted against the pandemic.
He also called for a cottage hospital at international airports for people to do tests on arrival in the country as obtainable in other climes.
A public health doctor and head of community health in Ifako Ijaye General Hospital, Lagos, Dr Ime Okon, said the fear this time is about the Delta variant, which according to her, is more virulent and can kill faster.
Okon, who is also the Secretary of the Lagos State Chapter of the Nigeria Medical Association (NMA), said the symptoms of the Delta variant are funny with general feeling of unwell; unlike the earlier variants which came with symptoms of cough, fever and difficulty breathing among others.
While she admitted that many residents have thrown caution into the wind; she stressed the need for Lagosians to adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocols and take the vaccination seriously. “COVID-19 is still very much with us,” she stressed.
She also advised them to regard as myths and unfounded belief all the rumours being peddled about the ongoing vaccination.
By Ojoma Akor, Abbas Jimoh (Abuja) & Christiana T. Alabi, Lagos